A recent news release on the NJDEP website discusses new efforts by the Christie Administration to streamline vital rebuilding projects necessitated by the destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy. The new rules, which were adopted on an emergency basis on April 16th, are intended to eliminate some of the red tape typically associated with permit procedures, while ensuring the protection of coastal resources and encouraging the rebuilding of a more resilient New Jersey coastline. This is just the latest action taken by the Governor and NJDEP to ease the burden on residents, businesses and municipalities seeking to rebuild. Beginning as early as five days after the storm swept through New Jersey, actions were already being taken to waive permitting requirements for those rebuilding vital infrastructure such as roads and bridges. More recently, the Christie Administration adopted a streamlined process for property owners wanting to rebuild to new elevation standards in flood zones.
Bob Martin, Commissioner of the NJDEP, justified these emergency actions, stating that the “Christie Administration is committed to taking every step possible to help our communities become stronger than ever from this historic storm, including eliminating unnecessary red tape that would needlessly impede the important work ahead. These common sense changes will make it easier for our residents and businesses to continue on the road to recovery while ensuring continued protection of natural resources.” Many activities that require individual permits will now be allowed under general permits or permits by rule. An example of these changes is the use of permits by rule for the maintenance of beaches and dunes in advance of the 2013 hurricane season. A general permit will replace individual permits for projects that create living shorelines with vegetation, sand, organic materials and/or bivalves such as oysters and clams. Countless other measures are similarly aimed at reducing both the time and money that formerly would have been spent on more complex permit requirements.
While these rules are being implemented on an emergency basis for 60 days, there is a concurrent proposal for a permanent rule change, which will be open for public comment for a period of 30-days. Comments can be submitted online until June 5th. A public hearing on the final rule will be held on May 22nd at the Long Branch Municipal Building in Long Branch, New Jersey. Following the 30-day comment period, the NJDEP will respond to any public comments before adopting the permanent rule, which it hopes to do at the expiration of the emergency rule.